First off, know this, a law degree is no picnic, it is hard work. You will be expected to do a lot of work outside lectures and tutorials, and you have to be very highly motivated. Law also tends to command slightly higher than usual grades from most universities, so a really strong showing at A Level is vital. Some universities require you to take the LNAT as well to be even considered. We'll talk more about that later. And you must write a really good personal statement to stand out from the crowd.
Still here?! Good. Don't let all that put you off. A law degree is an incredibly well respected qualification, and even if you don't go and practise law as a solicitor or a barrister, careers in anything from banking and finance to local government or the civil service await you.
But you need to get there first. Law is a subject that requires quite a bit of forward planning. So here's what you'll probably need.
Opinion is divided on how much emphasis is placed on GCSEs. Some universities place little of no value on them, and prefer to concentrate mainly on you're A Level results and your performance on the LNAT, while others view GCSEs as a good secondary predictor of your potential performance at degree level. The safest bet is to do as well as you possibly can, then you have all bases covered.
While we touched on the fact that Law requires you to get better than average A Levels, the choice of subject is much broader than other course like Medicine. While many Universities like their students to have a combination or two or more A Grades in more "traditional" subjects like English, Geography or History - good, old-fashioned, analytical subjects - and one or two "newer" subjects like Polictics or Business Studies, and even sciences like Psychology or Sociology, show you off as having more versatility. You might be asked for higher grades though, it is all dependent on the university in question, and what they offer you.
Law A Level...yes of no?
Very much a "Marmite" subject, most people who teach ungraduate Law hate A Level Law. While it gives the student a very superficial understanding of law, it creates fundamnetal misunderstandings about the law itself. General consensus seems to advise not taking it.
The LNAT is essentially an aptitude test. As there are no subject requirements, a large number of Universities use it to work out how suited you are to study Law. Designed to test aptitude rather than education, the LNAT measures the six core verbal reasoning skills of legal education: Comprehension, Interpretation, Analysis, Synthesis, Induction, Deduction. You can't revise for it, and the test itself is split into two halves: twelve extracts of argumentative texts, and 42 multiple choice questions.
To find out more about the LNAT and have a look at their website. You'll find out all you need to know.
You mentioned a personal statement?
Yes we did. Like all subjects, there are more applicants than there are spaces. But Law is even more competitive, and this places even greater importance on using your personal statement to stand out from the crowd. Some vital things to mention:
- Where your interest in law comes from
- How you have followed up this interest and any parts of this experience that has inspired you
- Any work experience (and you really should try and get some work experience)
- Your personal attributes and skills, and why the university should offer you a place.
- Your interests outside of law. Law schools like you to be well rounded.
- And you should always finish up with a closing statement saying why you want to go to that particular university and what you plan to do once you've got your law degree.
Right. Where should I study?
While there are no solid rules about what A Levels you need and what grades you need to get, here is a list of standard university offers from five of the top Law departments in the country:
University of Oxford - Expect to be offered 3 As at A Level and you will need to do the LNAT.
London School of Economics - LSE are really quite tricky. Extremely competitive, in 2010 more than 2,500 students applied for only 150 places. They usually ask for one A* and two As at A Level, and they like you have a good variety of high grade GCSEs. On the plus side, they don't tend to ask for the LNAT.
University College London - As of last year, UCL has begun asking for one A* and two As at A Level and score of above 14 on the LNAT.
Durham University - Over the last couple of years Durham has upped its entry requirements to one A* and two As at A level, and rumours abound that they only consider candidates who score 20 or more on the LNAT.
Once I'm there, what can I expect?
In short, a challenge. A standard law degree will take you a minimum of three years, but some can go to four with options to either study abroad or do an internship.
Most law courses focus on the core principals in the first and second years. Teaching is centered around developing the core skills that lawyers need; research, forming an argument, interviewing clients. You will do modules in criminal law, corporate law, contract law, property law and European Law to name but a few. Options in the third year include labour law, child law, hlegal philosophy and human rights law.
Expect to work very hard. Law is an incredibly stimulating, intellectually challenging course, that will prepare you for a career as a barrister or a solicitor.
What will my career prospects look like?
Amazing. One you've finished your degree, you will be in a great position to get yourself a job at a City Law firm as a barrister or a solicitor. And both pay exceptionally well.